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Hispanic broadcaster forms joint venture with Bedrocket for online Latin culture network aimed at millennials

Univision Communications has formed a joint venture with digital media producer Bedrocket Media to launch Flama — the Hispanic broadcaster’s first online network with original content, set to bow this fall first on YouTube.

Whereas most of Univision’s TV programming is in Spanish, Flama will be predominantly English-based to broaden appeal to a general 15-to-34 audience interested in Latin culture. The network will include short-form content and series spanning comedy, music, lifestyle, sports and documentaries.

“While the name of it is Latin and the look of it will be Latin, it will be predominantly aimed at a broad base of millennials,” said Tonia O’Connor, Univision’s president of content distribution and corporate business development. “This is absolutely an area where we need to be participating in and playing.”

Univision and Bedrocket are co-investors and creative partners for the digital network. The partners will unveil a “preview destination” this fall on YouTube, with a dedicated Flama website and mobile apps planned for early 2014.

Steven Benanav, Univision’s VP of content partnerships, is general manager of Flama, based in New York. The venture will be staffed with under 20 people, with programming development also in L.A. and Miami. O’Connor said Flama content will be produced in-house as well as in partnership with third parties.

Two shows in development for Flama (“flame” in Spanish) are: “Salseras,” produced in partnership with Vevo, a scripted series about two childhood best friends who become rivals in their college campus salsa dancing competition; and “Back Home,” a docu-series that follows young Hispanics on trips back to their ancestral homelands. 

Flama series will all premiere on digital platforms, but Univision may decide to adapt hit shows for TV, O’Connor said. In addition, the broadcaster expects to cross-promote Flama on TV and other online properties.

O’Connor said Univision and Bedrocket decided to launch first on YouTube — before the Flama desitation and apps are ready — to start building awareness for the brand. YouTube also serves as “a lab to test programming concepts,” she said.

With Flama, Univision will be able to “be a lot more risky than we could ever be on television” with new programming concepts, O’Connor said. She doesn’t mean R-rated fare, per se, but new forms of storytelling and programming concepts that have not been tried before.

For example, in addition to YouTube, Flama will create original content for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, said Brian Bedol, founder and CEO of Bedrocket. “From our perspective we are speaking to an audience that lives on all these platforms,” he said. “In many cases they’re mobile-first.”

Univision announced plans for Flama at its Digital Content NewFront presentation in May. The initiative is separate from UVideos, its first bilingual digital network, launched as an extension to its linear TV content in October 2012.

New York-based Bedrocket, which has fewer than 60 employees, maintains YouTube networks including Official Comedy, Network A, Look TV and KickTV. Last fall, the startup raised $15 million in funding from venture-capital firm NEA.

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